As opposition to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi and his decree giving himself nearly unlimited powers last week grows, the Muslim Brotherhood has cancelled a series of planned mass demonstrations in support of the Egyptian president.
In Cairo, thousands of Egyptians flocked to Tahrir Square for a massive protest against Morsi on Tuesday in a scene reminiscent of the 'Arab Spring' from earlier this year that toppled the 30-year rule of strongman Hosni Mubarak.
By early afternoon, nearly 20,000 people were at Tahrir, birthplace of the 18-day popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime nearly two years ago. Security was tightened across Cairo, with police checking ID papers and searching cars coming into the center, but there was no sign of protesters being stopped from reaching Tahrir.The mass demonstration follows reports of angry mobs ransacking and torching offices of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm- the Freedom and Justice party- in Mahallah and the Mediterranian port city of Alexandria.
A chaotic city of some 18 million people, Cairo's traffic was uncharacteristically light on Tuesday, with many businesses and government offices closing shop early in anticipation of possible unrest.
A new banner in the square proclaimed, "The Brotherhood stole the country" and one protester, Mahmoud Youssef, said: "We are here to bring down the constitutional declaration issued by Morsi." Many chanted the iconic slogans "the people want to bring down the regime."
Several thousand lawyers meanwhile gathered outside their union building in downtown Cairo ahead of their march to Tahrir to join protesters there. "Leave, leave," they chanted, addressing Morsi, who narrowly won elections in June to become the country's first freely elected civilian president.
In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, some 3,000 anti-Morsi protesters gathered outside the main court at the center of the ancient city.
Meanwhile, Morsi told top officials from Egypt's judiciary that he did not infringe on their authority when he granted himself near-absolute powers last week. Morsi had previously defended the move by telling the public that such measures would be temporary.
Since Morsi's decree and the gathering political unrest, shares in Egypt's stock exchange- the EGX30- have tumbled by as much as 9%, which was comprable to market activity leading up to the protests that swept Mubarak from power.